London a la Mode is a pop up showroom representing UK emerging talent. An interview with MD of London a la Mode, Emma Crosby.
What is London a la Mode?
I wanted to present a really diverse and accessible selection of designers this season, we started last February with 5 designers and we have grown to 12, with a waiting list for next season! The people I’ve worked with for the past 2-3 seasons have surpassed themselves with cohesive collections, full of colour, beautiful fabrics, and sliding price scales that make them more attainable. I’m so pleased, and every day in the showroom surrounded by these beautiful pieces is inspirational.
The ultimate goal is to put these designers in front of buyers… orders are fabulous, but for some of the new designers, feedback is so important to develop further. There are amazing new designers here, some that the UK market has not yet tapped into, like Neurotica, who has really been embraced by amazing international stores, yet is still really under-represented here.
What we have in the showroom this season is so diverse, the common thread is that they are all UK designers – whether British, Chinese, Australian or other, they have all been trained in the UK or have made this their home. International designers all look to London for inspiration, yet what dominates this country are international designers. I’d like to play some part in changing that, and truly believe the designers in here will make their mark.
At Entry Level we have Neurotica White Label, a quirky on-season label, born from her black label. Crop tees, sweats & tabards in cotton jersey retailing from £30 to £80.
Middle Level (retailing from £75-£120) – AP by Alice Palmer – inspired by Batman, it’s edgy, sexy & cool. Neurotica – hand-illustrated, with lots of layering in tactile silk jerseys covering jumpsuits, maxis, backless tunics and oversize cardigans.
Top End – Ada Zanditon, Alice Palmer, Lako Bukia, Viking Wong, Beautiful Soul & Harriet’s Muse, retailing from £100 - £1,000 with largest proportion under the magic £500! Fabrics are fluid, tactile, and colours are rich and luxurious… Within this mix we have red carpet dresses, androgynous tailoring, reworked Kimonos with a modern twist, conceptual knitwear, illustrated prints and deconstruction.
Accessories – Miss Kiki Salon Presents (silk scarf collection), Darkest Star (bags), Michelle Lowe-Holder (cuffs & chokers)
Lifestyle & Technology – Jeffrey Michael Design (lampshades & costume pieces), and Cute Circuit (appliqué jersey) – both designers use LED in totally different ways.
What do you do for your clients off season?
Where do I begin? It should really start at this point - I listen to buyer feedback, and it’s relayed to the designers from an objective viewpoint. Last season it was all about price, colour and fabric, so this season the designers have really considered who their potential customer is, and worked this into their collections, without losing who they are or their brand identity.
I’ll also look after the after-sales with clients, as well as brand development, sale strategies, setting up systems within their office & providing document templates. In the run up to the showroom, new designers are briefed on what is needed to facilitate sales – in most cases I have all the templates they need so it gives more free time to design. I try as much as possible to keep up to speed with everyone’s PR and send clients updated editorial, though this season has been difficult as I’ve taken so much more on!
Then there’s the website – coordinating images, press releases & look books and working with the designers PR. Then the emailing and calling clients. There’s also the London a la Mode networking nights, where I try to get everyone I know under one roof to mingle, and find new opportunities to self-promote and be inspired.
What’s your sales background?
I’ve worked in pretty much all levels of fashion since leaving school. With experience of shop floor sales, visual merchandising and buying on the retail side, and on the wholesale, helping to launch Miss Sixty & Fornarina to the UK – they were great to work with, as they had resources to really promote and develop them quickly, and they became major contenders within a couple of years. While that’s great, my passion is for the unique, so I started my first solo project scouting for new designers in 2004. I worked with some amazing talent, including Alexia Scarves (who now has an international presence), Galibardy (now an established jewelry designer), Eyedentity (now designing Aqua Couture) and Kevan Jon. It was very tough – and showroom costs were so high that I had to re-evaluate, and go back into salaried Sales Manager roles, which didn’t fit with my personal ethos as I don’t believe in the hard-sell – I look at things from all angles and listen to clients - any business relationship has to be mutually fulfilling.
How did you choose to represent new designers?
I find new designers inspiring with their creativity, energy & ideas, and am forever flattered that I seem to impart great knowledge. In what can be a cut-throat industry, I am working with people who tell me that they learn a lot from me. They have built my confidence in who I am and what I can provide, and that means a lot.
You also focus on branding and market aspirations?
It’s so important for designers to be realistic in their brand positioning in the first couple of seasons. Trying to pitch yourself alongside Peter Pilotto, Jonathon Saunders and Vivienne Westwood should be a long-term goal, so I encourage them to look at other options that are more realistic in the short-term – this is where price, press and profile come into play. Determining where the strength lies within their work, and aligning this with the end customer’s perception of the brand helps focus the development.
You also work with Vauxhall Fashion Scout representing their showrooms in London and Paris.. do you have any cross-over in designers?
We do. This is my third season with VFS, and I do love these guys & gals! I started with them last February organizing the buyer invites for Ones to Watch, and it’s now progressed to include Merit Award and Sales Manager for London & Paris showrooms. It is a lot of work, but they have really helped me grow, and this is a partnership where I think we learn from each other. I believe in their cause, and totally respect what they do.
What artists & collaborative projects you are working on?
These are very exciting! Miss Kiki Salon Presents… Six Easy Pieces (which has now become nine) is a collaboration celebrating the work of artists from all spectrums of the art world. Painters, digital artists, illustrators and photographers have submitted work that has been translated to a stunning 90cm x 90 cm silk panel. It’s based on the original concept of Zika & Lida Ascher, and since it’s inception in November has gathered momentum, with the works being featured in a month long exhibition throughout February at The Reading Room in Soho. The second project is already underway, and there are exciting plans for SS11…
I met Jeffrey Michael (he of the organic lampshades and light-up neckpieces) at an event in Machine A (then Digitaria) with Illumini, wearing a lit-up dress made of baubles. I just loved the quirkiness, and while he is not technically fashion, what he brings to the showroom is the opportunity for clients to commission pieces for VM. His repertoire includes stage sets, lighting for events, and illuminated costume – Lady GaGa included. He’s currently in negotiations with 2 rather prominent artists – one of which is through a London a la Mode connection.
For more information contact Emma Crosby +44 (0) 7957 307787 firstname.lastname@example.org